The 10 insights from Music Ally’s AI report on the use of AI in music creation
I write frequently about how AI-powered technology is impacting the creative industries, so it was perhaps inevitable that I would eventually get to music.
Music is, in fact, one of the earliest forms of art to have been made by a machine. In 1958, a computer algorithm on a computer at the University of Illinois was used to compose The Illiac Suite, a string quartet in the Classical style.
Unfortunately, while doing my research, I came across Music Ally’s Nov 2019 report ‘AIs on the prize’. I say unfortunately because it was such a well-researched, thorough and complete piece that it’s pointless trying to match it.
It’s one weakness, however, is that it is LOOONNNNGGGGG. 12,500 words long.
So here for your delight and delectation are the ten best bits, in around 700 words.
10 highlights from the report
- Elton John has partnered with a tech startup Rival Theory who create, “AI personas based on real people”. The ambition is to digitise Elton so that he can collaborate with other artists after his death.
2. In order to train an AI to make music you may need to copy a bunch of existing digital recordings. That could actually be illegal in Europe. Instead, researchers should “consider training in the US or Singapore, for example, where the legal context is really clear,” according to Sophie Goossens, counsel at law firm Reed Smith.
3. American band, YACHT, used AI to create their 2019 album, ‘Chain Tripping’. They trained it on their existing back-catalogue of 82 songs. It generated a few thousand clips between two- and 16-bars, which the band then used, along with a lyric-generating algorithm to compose new songs.
4. In fact, a number of artists are now using AI as part of their production process. Including Jean-Michel Jarre, Betty Who, Skygge, French musician Benoit Carré, Taryn Southern, Holly Herndon and K-Pop producers Enterarts.
5. Amper Music have a system that can create a minute of music in about 5–6 seconds, while rival Boomy say they can create a new piece is 13 seconds. Unfortunately they both still requires a human to determine whether the output is any good.
“These instruments know how to play the piano. But they don’t know if what they’ve done is any good”
6. “We haven’t tackled the core problem of quality or taste,” admits Stephen Phillips, CEO of startup Popgun. “These instruments know how to play the piano. But they don’t know if what they’ve done is any good”
7. Still, Amper have research that says that humans can’t hear a difference between human-created and AI- created stock-library music (which admittedly is a relatively low bar).
8. The famous Abbey Road studios is also home to one of the most successful music AI incubators in the world, Abbey Road Red.
9. AI music can sound weird. But that’s OK, so did ‘Tomorrow Never Knows’ by the Beatles when it was first released. “It’s those moments of craziness, whether done by artists in the studio, or by an AI, that could define the next 200 years of music,” according to Isabel Garvey, the MD of Abbey Road Studios.
10. The AI tools to make music are increasingly being put directly into consumers’ hands. Such as the app Humtap which as well as turning people’s humming and finger-tapping into melodies and beats, includes a feature to shoot a quick video.
(There is also a very good list of 18 AI music creation startups in the report, which is worth a look)
But wait, there’s more…
Subsequent to the Music Ally report at the back end of 2019, a couple of big-ish things have happened in the world of AI music:
- OpenAI, the Elon Musk-backed AI research lab, have released Jukebox, “a neural net that generates music, including rudimentary singing, as raw audio in a variety of genres and artist styles”. You can hear samples here.
- AI music startup, Popgun, did a deal with the massive online kids game, Roblox. The collaboration allows kids to make music with AI-generated loops.
For more in this vein, be sure to check out the report itself as well as Stuart Dredge’s excellent article Music Created by Artificial Intelligence Is Better Than You Think